Decision-Making Hobbled in Alcoholics With Multiple Disorders

Abusers with mental illness further undermine brain's ability to foresee consequences

TUESDAY, Sept. 26, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Alcoholics with personality disorders are even more likely to have problems making decisions, according to new research.

In a study appearing in the October issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, researchers from the Alexian Brothers Psychiatric Center in Belgium compared the decision-making abilities of a group of alcoholics with a group of people with no substance-abuse issues.

Since alcoholics tend to have impaired decision-making abilities, the researchers wanted to determine if decision-making impairments are specific to addictive disorders, or if other personality disorders play a part.

"Normally, we make choices by weighing immediate benefits of different options relative to possible negative consequences in the longer term," Geert Dom, head of treatment at the center, said in a prepared statement.

"When these abilities are impaired, people are less able to cognitively evaluate the longer-term consequences of their choices," Dom added. "This is reflected in real life by choices that are socially inadequate and/or related to overtly negative outcomes. Substance or polydrug use/abuse is one example."

The researchers found that both alcoholism and antisocial and borderline personality disorders were associated with decision-making impairments. Furthermore, the alcoholics who also had antisocial or borderline personality disorder were particularly impaired.

More information

The National Mental Health Association has more about personality disorders.

SOURCE: Alexian Brothers Psychiatric Center, news release, Sept. 24, 2006
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